The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. -- Carl Jung
We have to dare to be ourselves, however strange for frightening that may be. -- May Sarton
Art and life really are the same, and both can only be about a spiritual journey, a path towards a re-union with a supreme creator, with god, with the divine; and this is true no matter how unlikely, how strange, how unorthodox, one’s particular life path might appear to one’s self or others at any given moment. -- Genesis P-Orridge
I remember when I was a young man, I first heard about being yourself or finding yourself, and thinking, “well who the hell else would I be.”
Now I find it interesting just how insightful as well as unperceptive that statement seems to be.
When I was young I had not yet lived a lifetime under the pressure of a culture that is trying to make you conform. A culture that in many cases provides for you desires that it values and with just a bit of thought you would see that you don’t.
Personally, at least after reaching an age where I could assert my will into my life, I have never been much of a conformist. I am not saying that I never fell prey to goals and directions that did not really fit with who I am as a person, but that I tend to go my way rather than follow or be directed by pressure from outside sources.
For me, the societal and even family pressure to be someone else than who I was, reared its ugly head in a different way. Although it never could stop me from going my own way, it did, however, induce me to feel guilty about doing so.
The pressure to keep me from being me was never able to subdue me for long, but the guilt for doing so became an almost intolerable burden, sucking some, if not all of the joy, out of so much of life.
Over the years pop psychology has taught so many to blame their parents for their internal problems, and there may be some truth in this, however, most parents are just working through their fears and anxieties as well. I think personality has a lot to do with it. I am not making light of folks who had truly horrific childhoods, that is something completely different.
So, as we grow we should be developing into that person we were created to be and I think that for most of us that process keeps on going whether we like it or not.
While it is very tempting here to go into some long psychological theory on how this happened and the method of fixing it, this is where I depart, for reasons that I hope will become apparent, that direction is really diametrically opposed to the growth I am dealing with here.
This blog is about spirituality and photography, well art in general, I just use photography because that is the art form I am familiar with, so the analogies come much easier.
My personal opinion is that the true artist tends to be a mystic. I hesitate to use that worn out and oft-misused word, because of the seemingly limitless baggage it carries with it, but alas, I have no other. However, if we define mysticism as the art of union with reality, and see the mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or the one who aims at and believes in such attainment. Then we can get a glimpse of a way one can become their true self and in a strong sense, become real. For how could it be possible to experience reality without it having its effect upon us in a life-changing manner.
At some point, a true artist is going to come face to face with his or herself, and it is here that they are presented with the opportunity to take the path of authenticity. Conversely, they also have the ability to ignore that opportunity, and stay within the subjective reality they have created for themselves. While this easily could lead to commercial success it most definitely will end up in the suicide of authentic personality. The interesting thing is, that they may never know.
The path of authenticity is not easy, one has to face his or her self at every turn and yet it is the most fulfilling path one can travel. I will say here that when you face yourself in this manner, be gentle. When I was young and ignorant of the path I set out to accomplish it quickly and part of that delusion was the belief that I could by sheer force of will remove the false-self. At that point, I could not even identify the false-self let alone deal it a deadly blow. Instead, I found myself embarked on a journey that caused serious harm to my personality. When I figured this out, you guessed it, more guilt. I remember praying seriously about this and I believe the Lord spoke to me in my heart. (not words but an intuition, I will have to relate in words to get it across) “Yes, you are damaged, you caused harm to your psyche, you need to realize that you are in a war and there are forces who want your destruction. However, I will heal you and you will be better than before you started, trust me.” Again, this was not a conversation, I did not hear words but in an intuitive moment, I believe he spoke the whole understanding into my heart and mind. And, it has turned out to be true. I have been healed of all that pain.
My path, and it has been a very hard one, has called into question just about everything I believed about life and my understanding of God and our relation with him in Christ. It has taken decades, (it is not over) and has taken me through a number of great mentors and a couple degrees, a bachelors in Psychology and a Masters of Divinity, with a few years of post-grad studies in Christian literature focusing on the mystics. I probably could have saved a great deal of this time and effort if I would have just listened to my wife. However, even though she was right, you cannot force this change, it must come on its own.
My path through all this was through study, meditation, prayer, friends, mentors, education, photography and martial arts. God, reality, can use anything.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is -- Infinite.” William Blake
I hope it has become clear by now that I am not looking for nor writing about the fluff that passes for spirituality in so many quarters these days. It is not a feel good, we are all perfect kind of spirituality, it is as hard-nosed as the truth often is. But that doesn’t mean that we are in for a self-flagellation of the spirit. It is a kind, even caring path but one that will bring us into direct contact with the truth of existence and where ever the truth is involved there are times where we are less than comfortable. What we must know up front is that I am writing about things that may be at times uncomfortable, not condemning. If you experience any sort of condemnation that is not from God. However we only can approach this truth, this reality or ground of being if we are ready to allow things that get in the way to be stripped away, that is what I am referring to here.
Growing in spirituality is an amazing experience, one that is so well worth taking. There is no way to really describe it, and the mystic way is far beyond anything the practical self can imagine.
I am going to quit here right now, and I know it seems that I am just getting started, but where I go from here will take time to flesh out so I will begin that in the next post. I promise I will not take weeks to do so. (Okay, we will see.) It will come.
Thanks for reading, I am totally amazed when people take the time to read what I have to share. I thanks those who have contacted me to encourage me to keep writing, I appreciate that greatly and will continue as long as there is interest.